New Canaan boarder hits slopes at nationals
Updated 5:08 pm, Thursday, March 17, 2016
NEW CANAAN — Since he was a baby, Sumner Orr has wanted to be airborne.
“This kid is always trying to fly off of everything,” joked Sumner’s mother, Michelle. “I think he saw someone flying around with a jetpack on TV, so he used to ask Santa all the time for one. He wanted to fly.”
Sumner, now a 9-year-old student at East Elementary School, never did get the jetpack. But that did little to deter his dreams of big air. Sumner has found an escape from terrestrial boredom on the slopes with a snowboard strapped to his feet.
On April 3, he will compete for the second consecutive year in the U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Association Nationals in Cooper Mountain, Colo.
A skier since 4, Sumner petitioned his parents to let him try snowboarding just over two years ago. What began as casual lessons with an instructor turned quickly into an obsession with the sport.
“I just think it’s fun,” said Sumner, who took a break from flipping on his trampoline to answer a few questions over the phone. “I like the rails and the jumps,” he said. “I couldn’t do it on skis.”
Shortly after beginning lessons, Sumner began training more seriously and linked up with the Okemo Mountain School Groms (ages 8 to 9) team for the 2014-15 season. For the past two years, December through March, Sumner has traveled to Vermont to train Friday, Saturday and Sunday, missing school regularly as a result.
“It’s not the thrill of my life to have him miss school. But the teachers have been understanding,” Michelle Orr said.
The weekly trek is worth it, she said, because the USASA Southern Vermont Series, in which the Okemo Mountain School team competes, is one of the most competitive in the country.
“There’s a deep snowboarding history there. Southern Vermont, Tahoe and the Rocky Mountains are the regions that tend to produce the best kids in the country,” she said.
Despite the stiff competition, Sumner excelled in his first year, medalling in a couple of competitions and qualifying for four events at nationals, where he placed among the top third of boarders.
“For his first year, he did great,” she said.
But after emerging as one of the team’s top boarders this past winter, the stakes are now higher. In 17 competitions this season, Sumner medalled 15 times, tallying three golds, eight silvers and four bronze. At nationals, he’ll compete in all five categories: Half pipe, a semicircular ramp on which riders perform aerial maneuvers; slope style, a downhill obstacle course; boarder cross, a four-person high-speed race downhill; and slalom and giant slalom, a serpentine speed contest down the mountain.
“I expect him to definitely finish in the top 10. But we’d like to see him finish top five,” Michelle Orr said. “We don’t really focus so much on the end result, as we do just making sure he’s making progress and trying.”
As for Sumner, he is excited for the challenge, and expects to improve upon last year’s results.
“I think I’ll do OK,” he said, quietly confident. “Maybe top 10.”